Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira says he has “almost forgotten” about his lone PGA TOUR victory more than five years ago. On Sunday, he gets a chance to create new memories as he chases a home victory at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
The 34-year-old Kodaira fought to a 1-under 69 in the third round for tied fifth place, just three strokes back of leader Justin Suh who earned his career first 54-hole lead on 9-under after a 67 put him in pole position for a maiden PGA TOUR title.
Overnight leader Beau Hossler (69) and rookie Eric Cole (66) share second place, one stroke back, while two-time major winner Collin Morikawa brilliantly signed for a 66 after going 3-over in his opening five holes at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club for solo fourth on 7-under.
As quickly as Kodaira rose to fame when he stunned a top field for his triumph at the 2018 RBC Heritage, he has slipped off the grid without a single top-10 since enjoying the career breakthrough.
“I’ve almost forgotten what that win was like, but I’ve started to recall what being in contention feels like,” said Kodaira, who played in the final group alongside Hossler and Suh. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences since my win but I’m not always in contention unfortunately.”
Playing on a sponsor exemption, staying patient, especially when high winds wreaked havoc on Friday, has helped him emerge as Japan’s best hope to secure a second victory in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP on Sunday following Hideki Matsuyama’s famous triumph in 2021. Ryo Ishikawa, who has enjoyed stints on the PGA TOUR previously, enters the final round in tied eighth, five off the lead.
“I know I have to be more patient when I play which is probably helping me at the moment,” said Kodaira, who made two birdies against a lone bogey in his third round. “I know it’s not over until it’s over, and I can only focus on my own game.”
With seven wins on the Japan Golf Tour, which is co-sanctioning this week’s US $8.5 million event, Kodaira is excited at the opportunity to snap a five-year winless drought and knows there will be pressure on his slender shoulders to come from behind and deliver in front of his home fans. When he won at the RBC Heritage, the Japanese overturned a six-shot deficit on the last day.
“There’s nerves, the atmosphere of the crowd, and other players are playing great,” he said. “It’s a joy to play and just to play in that atmosphere. I know there will be nerves tomorrow but I hope I can turn that into confidence and end on a high before I go back to the States.”
Source : PGA Tour